The rock that is the San Antonio Spurs are back and rolling again after a 106-91 win over the Utah Jazz to open the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
After many discounted them going into this season, Greg Popovich and his familiar Spurs triumvirate of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker have risen above lowly pre-season predictions to take the best record in the West heading into the playoffs.
When the eighth-seeded Grizzlies upset the top-ranked Spurs in the first round of last seasons’ playoffs, the general consensus was that the Spurs were finally too old.
Injuries may have played a role in last season’s upset as Popovich said the Spurs were not the same after Duncan sprained his left ankle and Ginobili injured his right elbow in the final regular-season game.
The notion of being too old this season was flipped on its head as the Spurs defied expectations, even mocking the idea that they were too old when Popovich listed Duncan as “DNP-OLD” on March 25th against the Sixers.
Danny Green has become a key player starting at shooting guard, and rookie Kawhi Leonard has been integrated seamlessly into the Spurs starting line at small forward.
Older players Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson have been brought in mid-season and have also been integrated perfectly, filling out a bench that includes DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, and Tiago Splitter.
The Spurs are as efficient as ever and automatic title contenders as long as they stay healthy. Duncan is 36, Ginobili is 34, and though Parker is still just 29, he’s played 11 seasons in the NBA now with a postseason run at the end of each.
Parker is quietly having the season of his career averaging 18.3 points, a career-best 7.7 assists, a career-best 80% from the free-throw line, all while playing just 32 minutes per game and taking on more of a leadership role on the team.
With a mix of veteran leadership, quality pieces, young and hungry players, and Popovich running the show, an organization that’s swept LeBron in the finals before may be the safest bet once again to take the title.
Why are we so surprised?